A while back, I wrote a little piece about one of the many advantages of knowing “theatre people”: getting free tickets to big shows! Well, last night, I enjoyed yet another perk: getting invited to press previews of upcoming productions. “Which one?” you ask …
La Belle et la Bête
Beauty and the Beast
Now, to give you a little background before telling you all about our evening, Babydog is an actor in an amateur musical theatre company, and he knows a lot of people in the Paris theatre scene. In fact, his best friend for half their lives will be appearing this fall in the French production of Beauty and the Beast … but not in just any role: as the Beast himself! So last night, as “the best friend of the Beast” and “the husband of the best friend of the Beast,” we were invited to the press preview. When we arrived at the venue, though, we quickly realized just how “not-so VIP” we were; after queueing up with hundreds and hundreds of other guests, we painstakingly ascended the stairs to our seats in the balcony …
Oh no … wait … the second balcony …
Despite being seated in the nosebleed section, we still had a pretty good view. I didn’t know quite what to expect out of the evening, but I assumed there’d be a little show where the audience would be introduced to the cast and we’d hear a few numbers from the musical. In fact, what we ended up with was a real treat …
You see, when we met Lumière on our way into the theater …
… we had no idea we’d be spending the evening with …
The illustrious Alan Menken!
Now, we didn’t really meet Mr. Menken, but the press preview was essentially an interview with this Academy Award-winning and Golden Globe-winning composer, who wrote the score for both the 1991 Disney film and the Broadway show Beauty and the Beast. Of course, his CV is chock-full of other productions you might even know by heart — Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Enchanted, Sister Act the Musical, and Newsies — but last night was all about Beauty and the Beast …
Over the course of about an hour, Menken shared the story of how he and Howard Ashman transformed this classic French fairy tale into music and lyrics for a Disney film and how the film was transformed in turn into a Broadway musical. Interspersed throughout were video highlights from Menken’s career, including the making of the film and his and Ashman’s Oscar win. And, of course, there was music! Menken treated us to a performance of “Gaston” as well as one of seven songs written especially for the musical — the one that first gave the Beast a singing voice: “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Alan Menken performing “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Menken also recounted the story behind the emblematic “Be Our Guest.” When the team was writing the score for the film, he scratched out a jaunty little throw-away tune inspired by Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” as a starting point for Ashman to work on the lyrics. He thought he’d revise the melody afterwards, but after several failed attempts, he just ended up sticking with the original music!
It was a fascinating and superbly entertaining evening, but it would not be complete, of course, without a number from the cast of the French production. That’s when our friend the Beast and his beautiful Belle came on stage to perform “La Belle et la Bête” to enthusiastic applause.
An interview with Belle and the Beast,
and their performance of the title song
So, yes, this French fairy tale turned Disney film and Broadway musical is finally coming back home this fall! I, for one, can’t wait to get my invitation from the Beast to come see him on stage, maybe even with a French niece or two in tow!
Bon spectacle ! • Enjoy the show!
© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved
6 thoughts on “Be Our Guest”
Oh ma chérie, that’s what I call “being their guest” :)! You were in the same room with Alan Menken!!!! 🙂 🙂 What a magical evening for you both; & I hope one day I will get to see Michel himself onstage!! Theatre people really are the best :).
I just knew you’d eat this up! It really was a magical moment and a complete surprise. I had no idea he’d be there. And I agree: theatre people are awesome! I hope to see you again soon! It’s been far too long!
Wow, how fun! I feel honoured to know “the best friend of the Beast” and “the husband of the best friend of the Beast,” haha! The score from this show is amazing. I once saw the full musical at West End in London, and it was such a lovely experience!
Ha ha! I have yet to see the show even in English. It appears my first experience will be in French. Tant mieux, hein ? I cannot wait! (By the way, on a completely unrelated note, I’m watching a Norwegian film as I write this: “Kautokeino-opprøret”.)
I’ll bet it’s just as magical in French!
What a nice coincidence – I hope you liked it! The Same people of Norway have such an interesting culture, and the scenery in the northern parts of the country is barren and beautiful.
Bonne fin de la semaine!
Hello, I saw Le Belle et la Bette in Paris back in 2013 and loved it! Unfortunately I did not buy a program and have since regretted this decision. I was wondering if it is possible to get one from somewhere?